Microstructured thin-film electrode technology enables proof of concept of scalable, soft auditory brainstem implants

Auditory brainstem implants (ABIs) provide sound awareness to deaf individuals who are not candidates for the cochlear implant. The ABI electrode array rests on the surface of the cochlear nucleus (CN) in the brainstem and delivers multichannel electrical stimulation. The complex anatomy and physiology of the CN, together with poor spatial selectivity of electrical stimulation and inherent stiffness of contemporary multichannel arrays, leads to only modest auditory outcomes among ABI users. Here, we hypothesized that a soft ABI could enhance biomechanical compatibility with the curved CN surface. We developed implantable ABIs that are compatible with surgical handling, conform to the curvature of the CN after placement, and deliver efficient electrical stimulation. The soft ABI array design relies on precise microstructuring of plastic-metal-plastic multilayers to enable mechanical compliance, patterning, and electrical function. We fabricated soft ABIs to the scale of mouse and human CN and validated them in vitro. Experiments in mice demonstrated that these implants reliably evoked auditory neural activity over 1 month in vivo. Evaluation in human cadaveric models confirmed compatibility after insertion using an endoscopic-assisted craniotomy surgery, ease of array positioning, and robustness and reliability of the soft electrodes. This neurotechnology offers an opportunity to treat deafness in patients who are not candidates for the cochlear implant, and the design and manufacturing principles are broadly applicable to implantable soft bioelectronics throughout the central and peripheral nervous system.


Published in:
Science Translational Medicine, 11, 514, eaax9487
Year:
Oct 16 2019
Publisher:
Washington, AMER ASSOC ADVANCEMENT SCIENCE
ISSN:
1946-6234
1946-6242
Keywords:




 Record created 2019-10-26, last modified 2020-03-06


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